Artist Yinka Ilori has designed his first ever basketball court; a vibrant and joyful space in London’s Canary Wharf. Rendered in his signature bold colours and patterns, the pop-up court is now open to the public and will remain installed until October 2021.

For Ilori, the project was a chance to infuse a sense of hope and optimism in the city after a turbulent year. “I found it difficult not to have time and space to play in public spaces last year, so I wanted to create an area that encouraged play for everyone,” said Ilori in an interview. “I wanted to give people a place they can come and just enjoy being outdoors and being together again.” 

Specifically designed for three-a-side basketball, the court features a 3D-printed floor, an eye-catching perimeter wall and a single hoop. The slogan of the court — ‘be the best you can be’ — is printed in block letters along one side. The resulting technicolour display is fun, engaging and celebratory. Like much of Ilori’s work, it also reflects his approach to storytelling, which is rooted in his mixed cultural upbringing and British-Nigerian heritage. In this case, Ilori also drew inspiration from the history of the court’s surrounding neighbourhood.

“Canary Wharf is known for its skyscrapers, and my drawings resemble a lot of these structures. You will notice this particularly in the arch shapes found in this project,” he explains. “My use of colour and pattern show that this is a place that is changing, challenging perceptions of what people might have once thought of Canary Wharf. It is more than a financial district, it is a place where people can live, play, and enjoy themselves. A place that celebrates different cultures.”

Open daily between 12-9pm, the court is part of a larger public art programme led by the Canary Wharf Estate, featuring over 75 permanent works by world-renowned artists and craftspeople. To learn more about the project, visit the Canary Wharf website.

Photography by Matt Alexander for Canary Wharf & Yinka Ilori.

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